Don’t use January to beat yourself up

January 20 | Guest post by Katy
Huge salad © by blmurch, used under Creative Commons license.

January always seems to be about making new starts. Quitting things, cutting down on things, doing more of other things…I, of course, thought I was above falling for the hype. I'm an Offbeat Homie, I don't need to buy your exercise video just because it's January! Obviously.

But, to be honest, 2012 looks like it's going to be a big year for me. My first PhD performance review, a life-changing research trip abroad to plan, several articles to finish up and get published, and the spectre of job applications looming somewhere in the late summer. Having mentally dismissed a lot of this stuff until "after Christmas," I wasn't surprised that New Year's was when I started to feel under a lot of pressure.

I should have realised it was time to tone it down, though, when I cried because I burned some cheese-on-toast. I burned our dinner, so I must be an incompetent loser! Then I was feeling bad about not spending enough time with my family over Christmas. Then I was ranting about not having saved up enough money this year, and picturing a life of Oliver-Twist-poverty when my spending caught up with me.

Then I said something about my weight, and needing to cut down on all the chocolate, when my boyfriend finally snapped. "What are you talking about? You're eating a salad!"

"Yes, I'm eating a salad right now. But I mean generally."

"You're being so hard on yourself at the moment. Really, you're beating yourself up about so many things simultaneously, you need to calm down."

Wow. Reality check. Sometimes you need someone close to you to point out the bad habits you're getting into, and the man was right. I'd thought I was feeling under pressure about work — both present and future — but it had gone way beyond that. New-Years-itis had flooded my system and made me feel inadequate about EVERYTHING. Suddenly 2012 was the year when not only did I need to move abroad, write a PhD and get a job, I also needed to be a domestic goddess, a wonderful daughter, a millionaire, and a stone lighter.

I've realised that this isn't possible, and it isn't healthy. But more than that, New-Years-itis was making me forget about the great stuff I've done, the stuff I'm good at, the stuff I like about myself. And that should be just as important at the beginning of a new year as the new, exciting changes I'm going to make and the fresh experiences I'm going to have.

So, to my Homies: make some plans, maybe even some resolutions. But don't make 2012 the year you undo the mistakes of 2011 — also make it the year you carry on being awesome. Because, let's face it, you all rocked 2011.

  1. Thank you for writing this. I am right there with you. I spent the first ten days of this year freaking out. I must lose weight, I am getting married in October must do STUFF for that, I need to find a new job, must be perfect this year! And then I strained my ankle and spent two days on the couch during which I realized lots of things. I would like to lose weight to be healthier but my fiancé loved me when I weighed 30 lbs more, he loves me know and it has nothing to do with how I look. Yup, there is stuff that needs to be done for the wedding but the big stuff is done, the rest is details and at the end of the day I will be married! Finding a new job would be nice, I would like a shorter commute and a job that isn't mind numbingly boring, but I have a job that pays well with benefits, that is way more then other people have in this economy. So life is good and 2011 was a fantastic year for me and I didn't lose weight, find a new job, or get married. I know I will get married this year so that is already going to make it an amazing, awesome, fantastic year. If I can lose weight and/or find a job it will just be icing on the cake.

    Also I had a small dyslexic moment while reading this and thought you had said, "and a lighter stoner." :) it made me giggle.

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    • No problem, Alicia, it sounds like we're in very similar places right now! Congrats on your wedding, and all the stuff you've already done in the last year. Have a great 2012. :-)

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  2. I fall victim to this almost every year. January may indeed be my least-favorite month for that reason. Trying to get over the hump from the holidays (time off = less $ made, more $ spent traveling for holidays and gifts etc…) and staring down the battle of tax season (in the US at least – not sure when tax season is elsewhere). This year we kind of overdid it on gifts for one another, but I couldn't resist being generous to the people I love. We didn't make ourselves destitute or anything, and I don't regret a single gift we gave, but it does make a temporary dent in finances and thus morale.

    Luckily for me, my birthday is Feb. 1 so each January is kind of a hurdle of attrition before I snap myself out of it and say, "Buck up! It's no time to be sad at yourself! Birthday!!"

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  3. One thing about January is that regular TV becomes almost unwatchable. It's like all they advertise is one form of weight loss product or another.

    But January is also one of my least favorite months. Money's tight. It's still dark too early. It's often the coldest month. And I don't have a proper winter coat this year and no clothing budget to get one. Not that you could find one in the stores because they all seem to be getting out their spring clothes already.

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    • oh my GOSH what is WITH stores that do this?!?! You can't find a winter coat anywhere anymore! It's all Spring stuff! And in the summer it's all Fall stuff! And I can't find a pastel dress in Fall! ARRRRGH! I don't shop a season ahead! I'm not that organized!

      But seriously, you send me your size and address and I will send you a coat. I really will. Because man, nothing is worse than being cold. I wear my cold all day INside.

      And finally, I agree that it's still dark too early – I get in to work before it's light and i leave whne it's dark – it's like a whole month without sunlit, and no Christmas to make it better.

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  4. I am nervous about this year already. I have a big project at work that is going to take up most of my time, and I don't know if I have the skill set to do it. I don't have enough money to pay my health insurance deductible because it's only the begining of the year. The IRS won't even let me deposit enough to cover it anyway. My company started a new program where they give us money for being "healthy", so I really need to make sure I have the right BMI etc. because it transltes to actual dollars that I need for my husband's heart surgery, and he is not as healthy as me. I just keep telling myself. "It will all be ok…One thing at a time." or "Quit complaining!! Your life is awesome!!"

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    • Jessi – that sounds awful – I've never heard of that kind program in any company. What a terrible amount of pressure from them!

      I definitely don't think you should quit complaining, because it seems like you have valid stuff to worry about! But I do think you should be less hard on yourself, because it seems like you have a lot of external pressure on you at the moment anyway. You have a lot on your plate, but just take it one step at a time, and remember you don't have to do everything perfectly every single time.

      In terms of your big project, is there anything you could do to make it feel more manageable? Divide it into smaller chunks, or talk to someone about what skills you might need, or even share the load a little?

      But you will get through it, and we are all rooting for you!

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      • Thanks! They actually haven't been giving us this money before, so I should look at it as a good thing.

        My fear around this project is having more responsibility than I am used to.

        January is just the worst! It is really easy feel down. Thanks for writing this, and for the encouragement!

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  5. I too told myself I'd put off worrying about some things (aka, finding a job) until after the holidays. Now the depression is so bad in the mornings, I just want to stay under the covers forever. Glad for the pep talk.

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    • Hi Chris, I totally know where you're coming from. What I found helpful was when I realised that I was seeing each day as either a PRODUCTIVE day or an UNPRODUCTIVE, GUILT-INDUCING day. I either had to do loads, or I would feel paralysed and unable to do anything.

      I suddenly realised, though, that often it's totally ok to get just a tiny bit done. Even if you, for example, just find one or two job adverts and print them off. You don't have to pack in loads of stuff each day if you don't feel up to it, and that's totally fine.

      I'm thinking of you, and I hope you feel better soon.

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      • I just wanted to say that this comment is exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you.

        I lost my (totally awesome and pays well) job last year, and that kicked off a rather long bout of depression. I have since found another (kind of soul crushing and minimum wage) job, so at least we can still pay rent, but I had started to give up hope. Things like this help me realize that I can get through this, even if it's just a little bit at a time :)

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  6. Yes! This is exactly what I've been saying/thinking about personal goals for this year. I made some huge personal strides in 2011 – started a second Masters and overhauled my diet and exercise and have already lost close to 30 pounds. Rather than start all over, I've decided that 2012 is the year I just keep being awesome. Hitting my fitness goal and deciding on a thesis topic are going to happen this year anyway, so they are more facts, rather than goals. I have some small plans along the way, but they're just part of the bigger things I set in motion last year. Everything else I am able to accomplish or change this year is just icing on the cake.

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    • Good for you, Amanda! Good luck with the thesis topic too – this kind of decision makes postgrad stuff hard, but it's all worth it when you fine something awesome to write about.

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  7. SO much love! January media is all but insufferable and even if you avoid it, there is spill over everywhere. I can't look at Facebook without hearing about diets ad nauseam (from people i love!). I think even those of us who tend to avoid self-improvement consumerism need this pep talk!

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  8. I'm just glad I'm not the only one who has cheese toast for dinner.

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  9. I usually either go way overboard with new Years resolutions and burn out well before February, or else I remeber what happened last time and skip them altogether. This year however, I'm very pleased with myself. My resolution/goal is to form sustainable habits that make me a happier/better functioning person :)
    Habits like setting up good morning and evening routines, making sure a proper meal is cooked at least 5 nights/week, stuff like that. And to keep it sustainable I'm not allowed to start a new habit until the last one is completely automatic.
    It's still early days, but I'm quite proud of myself so far!

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  10. This really resonates with me today. I have been so hard on myself lately…. Thinking I have to be perfect is my biggest downfall. We are all friggin human! (I sometimes really hate to admit it though, wow).

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  11. Thanks Katy! No really, THANKS!
    Oh and I like your boyfriend. Smart bloke.
    I think 2012 can only be better for me because 2011 sucked majorly and I'm so glad I got through it sort of sane. I will (and do need to) spend more time musing over the small successes of the year and attempt to stop ruminating about the other rubbish which just keeps coming anyway.And I need to look forward to things. So thank you! A timely reminder that I don't need to take on all the marketing bollocks that come with a new year, and I seriously do not need to wind my level of agitation and anxiety up to 11 again. That should only be for music.

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  12. Thank you so much for this. After breaking down earlier for similar reasons- resulting in an argument with my fiance over whether or not to buy tomatoes, for crying out loud- I really needed someone from the outside to talk me down.

    Despite not having found more than seasonal work this year, I realize now that I should be grateful for even that. Sure, we still struggle during the in-between times, but we make it through all right. Heck, although the apartment could still be cleaner, it looks better than last year! Not only that, but I've gotten a lot more exercise in the last few weeks than I did for the past four months.

    Now I feel much more accomplished and able to fall asleep with guilt dreams.

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  13. When I worked at a swimming pool, we always had a giggle during the first couple weeks of the year. The first week, the lap lanes would be packed with people flailing around and angrily asking us how many laps were in a mile. The next week, they would vanish like smoke.

    I've never really been big on New Years resolutions for this reason. If I decide I want to do something, I try not to wait – I just jump in and get started. It takes the pressure off, which tends to lead to me making sustainable habits instead.

    Of course, this year my joining the gym happened to coincide with New Years… my coworkers keep asking if I've made a resolution to work out more. Nope, just something I want to do! :D

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  14. Thank you for this. I may bookmark it and/or print a copy for later in the year-I have a nasty habit of being my own worst critic and taking on far too much at once!
    Heres to a year of every one of us being awesome, regardless of how much we get crossed off the "to do" list :)

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  15. Hurray for Katy's! (i'm a different one)

    Thank you for writing this. I don't really have anything big going on this year (besides getting married, wee!), but I have been starting to think about ways to get my self GOING in life. You know, find a job that's not at a coffee shop, get a few art shows going. I need to get this ball rolling after doing really nothing for a year since I graduated.

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  16. I have never particularly cared for "It's a New Year! Be a NEW Person!" So I arbitrarily deciced that my birthday is my personal new year, because, well… it is. It is the beginning of MY year. And it always starts with a good day, which helps put it into some sort of perspective for me. Even if I don't do much, I have MY day right up front. This year, board games and showing friends through the new house. Good fun, lots of noice, and a fabulous start to my year.

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